Ranking the world’s best car brands is no easy task. The term “best” is quite subjective, and there’s no shortage of variables that you can take into account to measure the overall best and worst car brands. Some drivers rate a car brand by the statistics of their top-shelf performance cars. Others prefer to measure a brand by the overall reliability and build quality of their products. There are drivers out there who judge car brands by their owner satisfaction, and others who take into account the quality of a company’s sales staff, parts supply, or dealerships. Finding a uniform way to measure quality is no mean feat.
The Best Car Brands: Data
To make matters a little easier (or more complicated, depending on how you look at it) there are plenty of in-depth studies performed by reputable data gathering and research companies that measure a wide range of metrics that can help us determine which car brands are some of the best, and which ones are falling short.
For our list, we’re looking at data collected from a number of different but no less well-respected studies. The first is the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). This survey measured the satisfaction of American consumers, ranking their satisfaction with their vehicle and their car brand on a scale between 1 and 100. This study took into account reliability, performance, aesthetic appeal, interior features, safety, technology, comfort, economy, warranty, and customer service. The results are quite fascinating.
J.D. Power also collects data to help formulate a rough idea about the quality of a car being sold in the auto industry. If you’re looking for a new car, they offer some interesting stats that could influence your car buying decision. We’re using their Initial Quality survey to measure how many faults are reported to auto manufacturers per every 100 new cars sold on average.
We’re also using data from Consumer Reports. Consumer Reports has long been a go-to gold mine when it comes to extracting data from the automotive industry. A recent study from Consumer Reports focuses on the overall reliability of car brands and the general customer satisfaction from drivers of 470,000 vehicles. This study focused on a number of factors, but it mainly focused on a vehicle’s reliability.
The Best Car Brands For US Customers
Tied in first for the best car brand in America, Lexus is no stranger to high survey rankings. In fact, it has regularly listed as one of the top 5 car brands in surveys since 2011. Last year, Lexus trailed behind Volvo as the king of the car brands in the US using data compiled by ACSI. This year, Lexus has managed to gain a few points and share the top honors with Volvo as the most reliable car brands.
Lexus has won many accolades since it was first established in 1983 as Toyota’s luxury division. In recent years, the brand has been listed as the most trusted car brand in America, score a higher than the industry average score in vehicle reliability, and now it’s known as the best car brand in America.
Today, Lexus is one of the largest Japanese car brands, exporting to over 70 countries worldwide, with factories and operational locations across the globe, from the company’s headquarters in Nagoya, Japan to plants in Plano, Texas, and Brussels, Belgium. It tops our list, but it tops many other car brands list articles to, thanks to the company’s commitment to reliability, customer service, forward-thinking, and luxury design.
In joint first place we have the Swedish car manufacturer Volvo. Over the past few years, Volvo has struggled in a number of areas. According to customer satisfaction surveys from JD Power and dependability studies from Consumer Reports, the brand has constantly fallen behind its closest competitors. However, the brand has turned this around recently. The most recent ASCI survey scores the brand with an 82 out of 100 approval rating in the US for a wide range of factors. This assessment is supported by Volvo’s recent sales figures, with the brand noting a giant 27.6% increase in car sales between 2018 and 2019.
Volvo is a Swedish brand that was originally founded back in 1927. The brand has gone through a number of changes since then, with a number of different owners. Today, the company is still headquartered in Torslanda, near Gothenburg, but it’s currently owned by the Chinese automotive giant Geely Holding, who procured the marque from Ford back in 1999.
Thanks to the increase in sales and a rise in the brand’s overall quality, Volvo is expected to continue growing in the United States, with plans to compete against the likes of other luxury car brands like Mercedes-Benz and Audi.
As well as joint first places, we also have joint second places too. Ford’s only remaining luxury division, Lincoln, grabs a joint second place with an ASCI score of 84 points out of 100. Unusually, the brand is ranked second for a number of factors, including performance, aesthetics, dependability, comfort, and more, but it still suffered a 10 percent drop in sales during 2018. Lincoln even climbed two places since the same survey was conducted back in 2017. The sales don’t seem to reflect public opinion of the Lincoln marque, since they consider it to be one of the best car brands in the country.
The Lincoln brand was first established by Henry Leland in 1917, named after Abraham Lincoln as the Lincoln Motor Company. In 1922, the brand was acquired by the Ford Motor Company and went through a number of changes during the 20th century. For the most part, it was paired with the Mercury brand name and traded as Lincoln-Mercury. In 2012, it was rebranded as “Lincoln” and became one of Ford’s luxury nameplates. Today, the brand manufacturer’s a wide range of vehicles including SUVs, sedans, and crossovers. In 2017, the brand was named as the Most Satisfying Premium Brand in AutoPacific’s annual Vehicle Satisfaction Awards.
Subaru shares the second place honors with Lincoln in the ASCI survey. The Subaru brand name has always been a popular and well-respected choice for US drivers, and the level of customer satisfaction is illustrated by the brand’s 5 percent increase in sales experienced last year. This is the brand’s second year in second place in the ASCI survey, though the overall satisfaction has dropped a few points. Still, Subaru is still rated highly against other brand names and in other surveys too. A current study from USnews.com ranks Subaru as the 9th best car brand in the country, with a customer satisfaction score of 8.12 out of 10.
Subaru’s high score is an excellent feat considering that the brand isn’t part of a larger automotive giant like many of its closest rivals are. In fact, it’s only the twenty-second largest automaker in the world in terms of production. Subaru was first founded in 1915 as the Aircraft Research Laboratory. The company went through numerous changes and directions before it became the automotive division of Fuji Heavy Industries. Today, the brand is famous for its powerful cars that use an unusual boxer engine configuration in all cars over 1. 5 liters. Popular models include the Outback SUV, BRZ coupe, and WRX sedan.
There are three brands that have scored a tie for third place, and we’ll start by looking at Audi. Volkswagen’s luxury brand scored an excellent 83 points in the ACSI survey. In terms of brand reliability, Consumer Reports have also given Audi a positive result, ranking the German brand in fourth place. It’s not all good news though. J.D Power’s 2019 Brand Ranking reports that Audi customers experience a huge 105 problems per 100 vehicles sold on average. This is much higher than the industry’s standard of 93. Still, despite the unfavourable rating from J.D Power, Audi is still one of the nation’s most trusted car brands.
Audi AG was originally established in 1899 when August Horch founded the Horch & Cie. Company. Shortly after, internal disagreements forced Horch to leave and began a new company, but since his name was already taken by his first business, he was forced to find a new name. Settling on the Latin translation of his surname, audi (Horch is German for “listen”), Audiwerke GmbH was born. The brand continued to grow until 1932, when the company was absorbed in the Auto Union AG, along with other German car brands Horch, DKW, and Wanderer. Today, Audi is owned by the automotive giant Volkswagen, and continues to make quality luxury cars for the global market. It’s one of the most recognizable European car brands out there.
Joining Audi in third place, we have Honda. Honda also scored an impressive 83 points in the ASCI rankings, which is a significant improvement on the 2018 score of 81. Honda also scored very highly with an independent study conducted by US News, which gives the Honda brand a quality and reliability score of 8.55 out of 10, which is third place overall. J.D Power have a slightly different interpretation of the brand’s quality, ranking Honda down in 16th out of 32 brands, with an average of 98 problems reported per 100 new models sold – 5 more than the industry average of 93. Honda’s sales have taken a little hit recently, with overall sales dipping by 2%, but thanks to improving SUV sales, the brand is expected to return to sales form.
Honda as we know it today was founded in 1949, but the company’s founder Soichiro Honda began his career as a mechanic in 1937. After World War II, Honda’s plan was to build light and affordable transport that everyone could enjoy, and since then, the brand has developed into an automotive giant. Today, Honda is ranked as the 28th most valuable brand in the world according to Forbes, and the brand itself has become a household name.
The last brand to join Audi and Honda in third place is Toyota. Despite being one of the world’s largest car manufacturers, Toyota can only command a joint third place in terms of ASCI’s satisfaction index. Scoring 83 points would normally be something to celebrate, but Toyota has actually lost three points from the previous years, slipping from first place (held jointly with Lexus) down to third. On the plus side, Toyota scored very well in the J.D Power rankings, only reporting 90 problems per 100 cars sold, which better than the industry of 93, putting it in joint 8th place out of 32 brands ranked.
Founded as a loom manufacturing company in Japan in 1924, Toyota evolved to manufacture automobiles in 1933, with the first production models arriving in 1935. Over the years, the company has grown considerably, with factories and plants all over the world, with a number of well-known sub-brands too. Today, the Toyota Motor Corporation is considered to be the world’s largest automobile manufacturer, often swapping places with Volkswagen, and the company is set to grow even larger thanks to the brand’s commitment to electric and hybrid technology, with models such as the Prius and Prius Prime, which are considered to be standard bearers for the hybrid category.
BMW’s ranking with the ASCI shows no movement from previous years, with the brand scoring an impressive 82 points. Though it hasn’t shown any signs of improvement since last year, BMW’s sales have in fact risen by a cool 2.5%. J.D Power rate BMW 20th out of 32 manufacturers in terms of product quality, backed by data that BMW owners report an average of 102 faults per 100 cars sold. Other sources beg to differ though, with research company Consumer Affairs (not to be confused with Consumer Reports) awarding BMW a score of 3.5 out of 5 for reliability based on the strength of over 1000 independent reviews.
BMW began life as three individual companies: Rapp Motorenwerke, Fahrzeugfabrik Eisenach, and Bayerische Flugzeugwerke. In 1916, the three brands were merged and the newly founded company manufactured aircraft engines for the Germans during World War I. After the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, Germany was prohibited from manufacturing aircraft engines, so the company survived by branching out and manufacturing other goods. While BMW began constructing motorcycles, the company’s subsequent automobiles gained fame worldwide. Today, the brand specialized in building high-quality, premium, high-performance, and often luxury, automobiles.
Cadillac ties with BMW in the ASCI index, which is pretty good considering that the brand has had a few ups and downs throughout its history. ASCI give Cadillac a score of 82, which isn’t bad at all. Unfortunately, J.D Power has a difference of opinion, ranking Cadillac 17th out of 32 brands assessed in terms of vehicle quality, with customer’s reporting an average of 100 faults per 100 vehicles sold. This is 7 instances more than the industry average of 93. Still, the brand is doing something right since it has enjoyed a huge 5.4% sales increase up from last year. Not only that, it’s also the highest rated General Motors brand on the list. According to Forbes, it’s also the manufacturer with the third lowest amount of recalls, beaten only by Mercedes-Benz and Mazda.
The Cadillac brand name is one of the oldest marques in the industry. Founded in 1902 from the remnants of the Henry Ford Company, Cadillac has gone on to establish itself as one of the world’s first and most recognizable luxury car automobile manufacturers. Today, it’s the second oldest of the American car brands still in existence, beaten only by Buick. Cadillac became a part of General Motors in 1909, and since then it has developed a reputation for quality, reliable, and luxurious consumer vehicles.
Despite being ranked by Forbes as the 17th most valuable brands in the world, Mercedes-Benz isn’t doing as well as it could be, if the following stats are to be believed. The ASCI index shows the company dropping from 84 down to 82 points in terms of customer satisfaction. J.D Power’s survey isn’t so harsh, tallying Mercedes-Benz with 94 reported problems per 100 vehicles sold, putting in 14th place out of 32 brands. Overall though, the brand’s yearly sales are down by 13.4%, which is a massive drop compared with other companies. Still, the Mercedes-Benz brand is still ranked as one of the best in the USA.
Mercedes-Benz was first established in 1886 when Karl Benz created a petrol powered vehicle. The Benz Patent Motorwagen was patented the same year. It took a while for the first production models to go into service, but by 1926, the first Mercedes-Benz branded vehicles became available. This all came thanks to a tactical merger with Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz’s brands. Today, Mercedes-Benz is recognized as one of the world’s leading automakers. Based out of Stuttgart, Germany, Mercedes-Benz is famous for creating luxurious cars, SUVs, buses, and coaches.
The Worst Car Brands For US Customers
Using the same metrics for the best car brands listed above, we thought it might be a good idea to show you the worst ranked car brands in the USA. Now, these lists depend on the results generated from research and statistics companies that can only extract data from limited size information pools, so don’t take any of these statistics as the gospel truth. Consider them average assessments based on the reactions of limited sized research nets. So don’t be offended if your car manufacturer makes it on the list. Despite having lower rankings, all of these manufacturers are safe enough and reliable enough to operate on the country’s roads, or they wouldn’t be on sale. So let’s begin with the worst of the worst, and get steadily better as we go.
Chrysler is arguably the worst car brand in the USA if these stats are to be believed. Starting with the ASCI index, we’re got Chrysler in dead last in terms of customer satisfaction with a terrible score of 74, which is worse than last year when it managed to score 79. J.D Power’s most recent study hasn’t been kind either, putting Chrysler 25th out of 32 brands for quality with a score of 113 reported faults per 100 cars sold. Similarly, J.D Power’s Vehicle Dependability Study from the year before placed Chrysler firmly in last place too. Sales are also reflecting Chrysler’s fall from grace, with a slump in sales by a whopping 13.1%.
Chrysler was first founded back in 1925 but its history goes further back. The company was built on top of the Maxwell Motor Company which was first established in 1904 before being transformed into the Chrysler Corporation. Today, Chrysler is owned by Fiat and together they form Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, also known as FCA US LLC. Fiat Chrysler is one of the affectionately named “Big Three” giants of the American automotive industry alongside General Motors and Ford. Alongside Chrysler and Fiat, the FCA group also owns Dodge, Ram, Jeep, Maserati, and Mopar.
Next up, we’ve got another US automotive giant scoring disappointingly low on the list. Despite having access to a huge 14% market share in the US and being one of the most popular car brands in the world, Ford inspires very little customer satisfaction. According to the ASCI, Ford’s score has dropped from an already low 79 down to 77 this year. It’s not all bad news though. J.D Power’s survey has a much better evaluation of the company, ranking it 4th out of 32 in an Initial Quality survey, scoring a low average of 83 reported faults per 100 cars sold. Currently, Forbes rates Ford as the 48th most valuable brand in the world.
The first incarnation of the Ford Motor Company arrived in 1901 when founder Henry Ford established the Henry Ford Company. In 1902, that company evolved into the Cadillac Motor Company. Ford as we know it today was first established in 1903, with a single factory and $28,000 of investment money from 12 visionary backers, including both Horace and John Dodge. Today, Ford is one of the largest auto makers in the USA, and the parent company of the Lincoln Motor Company, which curiously scores much higher than Ford in these kinds of lists and surveys.
Tied with Ford for second-to-worst honors is Dodge. Dodge might be another legendary American company, but it’s ranked as one of the worst car brands in terms of customer satisfaction according to the ASCI index. Scoring 77 points alongside Ford, it’s right down at the bottom, but it’s not as bad as last year, since the company has improved their score up for 75. J.D Power also report some good news, with Dodge owners reporting a low 90 problems per 100 vehicles in their Initial Quality survey. 2018’s Vehicle Dependability survey wasn’t as kind. Despite the high score from J.D Power’s rankings, Dodge has reported a slump in sales to the tune of 3.5%.
The Dodge brothers, John and Horace, first established the Dodge Brothers Company in 1900. Together, they manufacturer components and parts for other existing automakers, specifically the Ford Motor Company and the Olds Motor Vehicle Company. The two brothers even invested in Henry Ford’s Ford Motor Company in 1903. Despite believing in the Ford dream, the brothers ended up manufacturing their own automobiles, with the first arriving in 1914. The company enjoyed roaring success until the 1920s. In 1928, the Dodge name was sold to Chrysler. Today, it’s an important subsidiary of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
Infiniti might not have the lowest score on the list, but by rights it shouldn’t be on the worst car brands list at all. It’s the only luxury brand that manages to slip below the industry average for owner satisfaction according to the ASCI index. This isn’t good at all. With an industry average of 82, for a brand like Infiniti to score 78 is a bit of a shock. J.D Power’s 2019 Initial Quality survey agrees that Infinit could do better, ranking them in 19th place out of 32 brands with an average of 101 faults reported per 100 cars sold. Fortunately, the pool of survey takers from J.D Power’s 2018 Vehicle Dependability survey have helped the brand recover some dignity, ranking the brand fourth in terms of dependability. Which is something, at least.
The Infiniti brand is a relative newcomer in the automotive industry, only appearing in 1989. The brand was developed as Nissan’s luxury car division that planned to do battle with Toyota’s Lexus and Honda’s Acura brands, and tap into the American luxury market. The first Infiniti cars were sold in the USA in 1989, and over the years the small division has grown into a large and important brand in its own right, with dealerships all over the USA and in over 50 countries worldwide.
Fiat isn’t doing well. The ASCI scores them with 78 points, which is marginally better than some of others on the list, but for a company as big as Fiat, the brand should be doing better.. Unfortunately, Fiat wasn’t included in the 2019 J.D Power Initial Quality survey due to a small available sample size. However, the brand was included in J.D Power’s 2018 Vehicle Dependability survey…where it ranked 29th out of 31, with an average of 192 problems reported per every 100 vehicles sold. To add insult to injury, Fiat has just experienced a huge sales drop of a worrying 43.7% (that is not a typo). Let’s hope the good folk at Fiat Chrysler can rally and turn it around in the near future!
The largest of the Italian car brands, Fiat, was first founded in 1899 by Giovanni Agnelli and his associates. The name Fiat is an acronym of Fabbric Italiana di Automobili Torino. Fiat S.p.A has grown from a small operation of 35 employees producing 24 cars a year in 1900 to being one of the largest automobile manufacturers in the world today. Fiat is also one of the major partners in the large Fiat Chrysler Automobile company; an Italian-American multinational corporation, and the eighth largest automaker on the planet.
Mitsubishi never scores well in these kind of rankings, but if we’re looking at the ASCI scores, things are actually looking up for the Japanese car brand. Mitsubishi has managed to improve its score from last year by one point, bringing the total to a more respectable 78. J.D Power also has a pretty poor opinion of Mitsubishi though, ranking the company in 30th out of 32 car brands in their Initial Quality survey. If you look at surveys alone, Mitsubishi aren’t doing well at all. However, if you like to look at sales figures to help you get an overview of a car brands quality, then Mitsubishi might surprise you, because the brand is enjoying a sales improvement of 23.4% over last year, which is huge growth.
The Mitsubishi Group was first founded in 1870 as a shipping company. Though focused on shipping, Mitsubishi expanded and diversified in many ways, operating banks, investing in coal, selling insurance, and producing iron. In 1917, the company produced its first automobile, a hand-built seven seater car. During the four years that the Model A was on sale, only 22 were built. Fortunately, modern-day Mitsubishi is much more production. Today, the firm is based out of Tokyo and it’s ranked as the sixth largest automobile manufacturer in Japan, and the sixteenth largest globally in terms of production.
This one is a bit of a curveball choice. Usually, Kia scores incredibly highly in these kind of lists. In fact, J.D Power ranks Kia in 2nd place in terms of Initial Quality, with an average of 70 faults reported per 100 cars sold. This also correlates with 2018’s Vehicle Dependability Study which ranks the firm as the fifth best. However, the ASCI gives Kia a disappointingly low score when measuring overall customer satisfaction. It seems like the vehicles are reliable and dependable, but they’re lacking in performance, additional features, styling, comfort, and technology. The ASCI has score Kia with 79 points, which is down from the 82 points it had last year. Sales reflect the regression, with the brand reporting a sales dip of 1.6%.
Kia was first established in 1944. The company manufactured steel tubing and bicycle parts, and in 1951, Kia produced a bicycle of its own. Shortly after, it began producing Honda-licensed motorcycles, and Mazda-licensed trucks. In 1973, Kia began producing their own cars but just over a decade later, the company was forced to cease production on cars and focus on trucks due to political reasons. Once the turmoil was over, Kia partnered with Ford to return to manufacturing passenger cars, and the brand grew from there. Today, Kia is one of the most well-respected manufacturers in the industry.
Chevrolet might be another odd choice to score so low down on the list. It’s the third largest car brand in terms of sales in the USA behind Toyota and Ford, and sales are increasing too, with a 5% increase reported by the brand. However, the ASCI score explains that while sales might be up, overall customer satisfaction is at an all-time low. With a score of 79, which is much worse than the likes of Cadillac, Buick, and GMC, Chevrolet should be doing better. J.D Power rates Chevrolet much higher though. In terms of vehicle quality, it only reports an average of 85 faults per 100 cars sold, which is fifth overall.
Chevrolet, also known as Chevy, is a subsidiary of General Motors. The brand was first founded in 1911 by Louis Chevrolet and William C. Durant, with plans to build a car that could compete with the Ford Model T. In 1917 Chevrolet was merged into General Motors, and the rest is history. Over the years, Chevrolet has been one of the most important and well-recognised brands to come out of America. Today, Chevrolet operates in more than 140 countries worldwide, and Forbes ranks the brand in 63rd place as one of the most valuable brand names out there.
Despite being ranked as one of the worst car brands you can buy by ACSI, things aren’t actually as bad for RAM as they appear. Sure, the brand scored an uninspiring score of 80, but they’re near the top of the “best of the worst” list, and this is the brands first time even appearing in this survey. 80 might not be great, but it’s well ahead of the other Fiat-Chrysler. Since the industry average score is only 82 anyway, we can forgive RAM here. J.D Power doesn’t rank the brand particularly highly, ranking it 21st out of 32, with an average of 105 faults reported per 100 vehicles sold. It’s way more than the industry average of 93, but it’s not awful. Sales are down by 5.7% though.
RAM Trucks, or the RAM Truck Division, has a long and illustrious history. The Ram name was originally used on Dodge trucks from 1932 onwards, alongside other light and medium duty vehicles including vans. The Ram names was often used on Dodge’s vehicles but it wasn’t a brand in its own right until 2010, when Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles decided to list RAM as its new sub-brand. Fiat-Chrysler had plans to use the marque as a new division that would appeal to enthusiasts of “real trucks” and pickup trucks, producing models that could compete with Ford, Chevrolet, and GMC.
As the best of the worst, the Nissan name should come as a surprise. While Nissan is one of the most recognizable car brands in the world, it only managed to get a pretty low score of 80 on the ASCI index for customer satisfaction. This was reflected with a sharp sales drop of 5.9% in the USA from last year. Still, it’s not all bad news. J.D Power is particularly supportive of the brand, giving it a score of 9 out of 10 for overall quality, and ranking the brand in 7th place out of 32 in their Initial Quality rankings, reporting a score of 86 faults reported per 100 vehicles sold, which is much better than the industry average of 93.
The Nissan Motor Company began life in Japan back in 1911 when Masujiro Hashimoto founded the Kaishinskha Motor Car Works. In 1914, the brand produced its first car, known as the DAT. The company went through numerous name changes until it was known as DAT Motors. In 1934, the company was absorbed into the Nissan Group, and Nissan as we know it today began to take shape. Today, Nissan is one of the largest automakers in the world. Headquartered in Yokohama, Japan, Nissan is also the parent company of Datsun and Infiniti.
How Many Car Brands Are There?
There are hundreds of car brands in the world, but it’s impossible to list all of them since there are too many variables about what constitutes a proper car manufacturer and brand. However, if we’re talking about big industry players, there are 54 car brands of note, and they’re owned by 14 parent companies. Here’s a quick overview of who owns who:
- DS Automobiles
Ford Motor Company
- TATA Motors
- Land Rover
- London Taxi Company
These aren’t the only brands out there. There are plenty of other top car brands out there that don’t fit into the above criteria, since they’re still owned by themselves. Ferrari, Mazda, and Subaru, for example, as well as other interesting brands like Tesla and Lotus.
Best Car Brands In USA: Conclusion
This isn’t a car buying guide, but hopefully, it gives you a little more detail about the state of auto industry and cars sold in the US. However, if you want to know the best car brands in terms of customer satisfaction and reliability, then Lexus and Genesis would be the best of the best. If you want to know the worst car brands, taking into account customer satisfaction, then the worst would have to be Chrysler. In terms of the worst reliability and product quality, then the answer would have to be Chrysler again.